Who Was James A. Garfield?

Contributor: Nichole Brooker. Lesson ID: 11148

He was a teacher, preacher, and soldier, yet he is most remembered for being the second president to be assassinated! Learn about the short presidency of James A. Garfield and how it affected the US!


United States

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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James A. Garfield was the 20th president of the United States, but was only in office for six months. He was shot in the back by a man who was disgruntled because he was not appointed as a European delegate (what do you think "disgruntled" means?). Garfield's death is not widely known because he wasn't in office long enough to make much of an impact. See what his short-lived presidency resulted in for the U.S.

Six months is not a long time to make a difference in the government!

Have you ever noticed how long it takes to get anything done with the government? For example, in 2016, the average amount of time it took to pass a bill through Congress was 263 days! That's about eight-and-a-half months!

Considering the government is more complex and complicated than it was in 1881, even if we cut that time in half, it would still have taken four months to pass one law or bill. Since Garfield was only in office for 6 months, he did not get the chance to do much for the U.S. government.

He fought for specific politicians to be appointed to his cabinet, and spent the majority of his time as president trying to win that battle. He also invited many foreign leaders to a summit (meeting of many country leaders to discuss issues), but it never took place because of his assassination.

Before his presidency, Garfield joined the Union army to fight in the Civil War. He was against slavery and the breakup of the Union. He became a general and fought many battles.

As you watch James Garfield (below), take notes on the life of the 20th president. Try to make a list of at least 5 facts about President Garfield. Remember, he doesn't have as complex a legacy as other presidents because of the limited time he spent in office.

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In the Got It? section, your list will be compared to the one you completed from the video.

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